Tribunal may hear smart meter illness claims

Citizens For Safe Technology lodged the complaint, which alleges discrimination on the basis of physical disability

  • Sep. 7, 2012 7:00 a.m.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hear a complaint that B.C. Hydro’s blanket installation of wireless smart meters discriminates against medical sufferers who claim electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

Smart meter opposition group Citizens For Safe Technology lodged the complaint, which alleges discrimination on the basis of physical disability because of Hydro’s refusal to allow residents to opt out and have wired meters instead.

The group intends to bring evidence on behalf of dozens of affected members who have doctor’s advice to avoid living near wireless smart meters, and it also hopes others claiming similar afflictions could later join and benefit from any tribunal-ordered remedy.

But the decision, written by tribunal member Enid Marion, sets a high bar for the challenge to advance.

The decision notes the group’s claims span various illnesses and included a catch-all category of “unspecified medical conditions” that the tribunal ruled was “too vague.”

Citizens for Safe Technology (CST) were given 30 days to narrow their initial list of 45 claimants to just those with more specific illnesses linked to wireless exposure.

“It is simply unmanageable to have a plethora of various medical conditions that must be proven and linked to the adverse treatment (of avoiding smart meters),” the ruling said.

“A vague and medically unsubstantiated reference by a physician to avoid wireless technology is insufficient to constitute a disability,” it said. “There must be a medical diagnosis, as well as a contraindication for exposure to such technology because of its effect on the medical condition.”

If the claim clears that hurdle, the tribunal would either hold a full hearing or seek written submissions on whether electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) qualifies as a disability under B.C.’s Human Rights Code.

BC Hydro argued CST’s complainants failed to so far provide any medical evidence of their ailments and that many are merely out to block smart meters for reasons other than their health.

The tribunal found CST may have “political motivations” but that doesn’t bar it from making a complaint.

The tribunal also ruled that the discriminated class doesn’t have to be limited to BC Hydro customers – leaving it open for customer spouses, children and other residents to join the claim.

B.C. Hydro argued the complaint did not identify a specific set of individuals, that it’s not within the tribunal’s jurisdiction and that the smart meter installation was mandated by provincial law.

Hydro maintains its wireless smart meter network is safe and that signals are low power compared to other common radio-frequency sources and are transmitted only occasionally, amounting to miniscule time-averaged exposure compared to Health Canada limits.

Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control have found no evidence to back claims of health risk from wireless smart meters.

Smart meters have already been installed in most Lower Mainland homes and the rollout is slated to be complete by the end of the year.

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